Madam Speaker, I rise today to support Bill C-227, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (community benefit).
To put this bill in context, I would like to take a moment to describe the department governed by that act. Public Service and Procurement Canada serves as a vital foundation for the Canadian government. With the help of over 12,000 hard-working employees across Canada, the department acts as the government's principal treasurer, accountant, and real property manager.
The department's efforts ensure that the government buys what it needs and guarantees that resources are in place for the future. This includes big ticket items, such as military procurement and large information technology systems, as well as other goods and services, such as office supplies, fuel, and translation services.
In total, PSPC manages about $15 billion on behalf of other government departments and agencies. This amounts to over 80% of total federal government procurement.
Not only does this government department buy much of the goods and services for the Government of Canada, we also seek to make these purchases beneficial to communities and businesses across the country. For example, of the $15 billion in procurement the department manages each year, around 40% goes to Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises.
Canada's unprecedented, multi-billion dollar national shipbuilding strategy is also giving rise to accomplishments beyond procurement. In addition to re-establishing a world-class shipbuilding industry, the national shipbuilding strategy is growing our economy, creating jobs for Canadians, and generating apprenticeship programs for indigenous communities and women.
This bill is yet another example of our efforts to make government procurement work for all Canadians. The principles that underpin this private member's bill and its intended objectives are laudable and deserve further study in committee.
I would like to congratulate the member for York South—Weston for his work on this private member's bill. When he introduced the bill, he stated that he would like to empower communities to make development work for them. I think this is something every member of this House can support.
Bill C-227 seeks to amend section 20 of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act to include a provision stating:
The Minister may, before awarding a contract for the construction, maintenance or repair of public works, federal real property or federal immovables, require bidders on the proposal to provide information on the community benefits that the project will provide.
The bill also requires that:
A contracting party shall, upon request by the Minister, provide the Minister with an assessment as to whether the project has provided community benefits.
The Minister must table an annual report in Parliament assessing whether construction, maintenance, or repair projects have provided community benefit.
Other jurisdictions are starting to move toward an approach that considers community benefits in the context of infrastructure investment. Such approaches generally involve the use of community benefits agreements, which are formal agreements between a real estate agent or infrastructure developer, and a coalition that reflects and represents people who are affected by a large development project.
Community benefit agreements are not in any way a new concept. They have been used for years in the United States, and they were used in the construction of the athletes' village for the Vancouver Olympics.
Last year, Ontario was the first province to include community benefits in provincial infrastructure projects under the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, 2015.
If Bill C-277 is referred to committee, it would be advisable for the committee to examine the experiences of these jurisdictions in more detail and identify the lessons learned that could be applied to federal endeavours in Canada.
When he introduced the bill, the member for York South—Weston also said that community benefit agreements “create community wealth, quality jobs, training, responsible growth, and a healthier environment”.
Once again, these are objectives that every member of the House of Commons should support.
In fact, our government is already taking steps to achieve these objectives. To strengthen the middle class and ensure more inclusive growth for more Canadians, budget 2016 is making historic investments in infrastructure and innovation.
According to the budget, “investing in infrastructure is not just about creating good jobs and economic growth. It's also about building communities that Canadians are proud to call home.”
The mandate letter for the Minister of Public Services and Procurement requires that the minister, “Modernize procurement practices so that they are simpler, less administratively burdensome, deploy modern comptrollership, and include practices that support our economic policy goals, including green and social procurement.”
To achieve these objectives the Department of Public Services and Procurement Canada is working to simplify its contracts, templates, and business processes. This will make it easier for clients to buy the goods and services they need to deliver their programs to Canadians and for suppliers to sell to the government.
The department is acquiring and implementing a new web-based e-procurement solution, which will move the Government of Canada procurement function to an e-business model. This will leverage the best practices of the industry, which will reduce cost and process burden for government departments and agencies, and for suppliers.
Taken together, these initiatives will modernize the Government of Canada procurement function, foster competition, and allow procurement to advance social and green policies for the benefit of Canadians. With this private member's bill, we are taking another step to ensure procurement is socially conscious and community-focused.
To come back to the content of Bill C-227, the bill should be sent to committee, because several parts of it warrant closer attention.
First of all, we need to determine whether the scope of the bill will allow for its own objectives to be fully achieved. For instance, amending section 20 of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, in accordance with Bill C-227, would require that community benefits be taken into account for projects led by Public Services and Procurement Canada, whether on its own behalf or on behalf of another department.
Accordingly, the overall impact of the amendments would be limited, because approximately 30% of the federal government's real property is managed by Public Services and Procurement Canada.
Second, we need to look closely at any potential impact the bill could have on international trade agreements. International agreements often impose certain restrictions regarding the requirements that member nations can include in their bid solicitation process. The intentions of Bill C-227 are laudable. Let us send it to committee so that it can be examined in greater detail.
We want procurement to work for all Canadians and the bill would help us do just that.